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Vanguard Conducts Aerial Mountainous Terrain Exercise

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS170817-06
Release Date: 8/17/2017 9:46:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica Dowell, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the Vanguard of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen (HM-14) participated in an aerial mountainous terrain qualification exercise at the Camp Dawson Army National Guard Facility in West Virginia, July 30, 2017.

The exercise is part of continued training for the squadron to familiarize the pilots and crew of aircraft operations, landing and offloading in less than ideal situations.

"We go into areas that aren't established for aviation, small fields or cut outs in the trees on the side of a mountain," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Spencer, an HM-14 admin officer and MH-53E weapons and tactics instructor. "We need to be able to pick up and drop off cargo, personnel and troops and be able to do missions that most aircraft can't do."

The squadron, paired with pilots and aircrewmen from Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Atlantic (HELSEACOMBATWEPSCOLANT), completed on-ground pre-flight training to familiarize the crewmen and pilots with what types of challenges they would face when flying in a mountainous environment before flight operations commenced.

"We work to train the fleet pilots on how to operate in those mountainous environments and basically pass on what we've learned in mountain flying training to the pilots and crewmen that operate the aircraft on a day to day basis," Spencer continued.

As important as physical aircraft operation is in the hands of the pilots, the work of the crewmen is equally important to the safety and mission capability of the aircraft and crew.

"Rising and falling terrain with different wind considerations and high-altitude places a strain on the rotor system and the engines of the aircraft which makes it more challenging," said Spencer. "You are power limited so training opportunities like this provide us a really good opportunity to get our pilots and aircrew to work together as a team and think about all those additional hazards that pilots don't normally deal with."

The communication of HM-14's officer and enlisted personnel when operating in these types of conditions is the backbone to safe flight operations.

"When we come into the zone, pilots are looking out, keeping good air speed and altitude, the crew in the back are looking at terrain profile and any obstacles that may be in the way," said Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class Hunter McDaniel.

When the call to action comes for any kind of mission that would take the aircraft over land into a mountainous environment, the squadron is prepared to mitigate risk and perform heavy lift missions with the MH-53 safely.

With continued effort from the HM-14 team on training missions like this, the "Vanguard" is maintaining a level preparedness to answer the call to duty.

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